Situated in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, the popular town of Banff is a place many make a destination year round. Banff is the perfect place to spend a few days or a few weeks. Spending a 3 day, long weekend in Banff is the perfect way to explore as there is so much to see and do from the majestic mountain views at every twist and turn, the cozy hotels, or the great places to eat Banff will wow you from the moment you arrive and make you never want to leave.
There is so much to see right in the downtown core of Banff itself you could easily spend an entire day here! There is an entire lot that is dedicated to RV and large vehicles at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre which is only a quick 5-10 minute walk to anywhere you are going in town. All other parking lots throughout Banff do have no RV parking on the signage so this is the perfect place to park for the day while you explore the centre of town.
Walk the downtown and pop into all the cute shops that sell anything from souvenirs, locally made items, beautiful art and some incredible food. Some popular places to eat that will leave your belly full and happy are Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar, Banff Ave Brewing Co and Chucks Steakhouse just to name a few.
You can spend some time walking the Bow River or sitting there having a picnic that sits just on the south edge of town. Or if you want to check out the majestic Fairmont it is a quick 10-15 minute walk from the downtown where you will find a castle in the mountains waiting to greet you. This historic Fairmont Banff Springs is open to visitors to explore the beautiful hotel. A visit to the Fairmont would not be complete without a visit to Bow Falls which sits just down the hill from the castle like hotel. Another excellent way to see the Fairmont is to head up Buffalo Street to Surprise Corner Viewpoint. Here you look down on the Fairmont and the Bow River set into the thick forest and valley in the mountains.
If you want one of the best views in the city head up to the Banff Gondola where you are whisked up Sulphur Mountain to the very top where you can walk a wooden boardwalk to see outstanding views of both the mountains and the town of Banff. You can also stay for dinner and watch the sunset into the mountain range while enjoying a hotel meal at the Sky Bistro.
The perfect way to end a busy day in Banff is to head to the Banff Upper Hot Springs where you can relax in the hot outdoor pools year round.
Tunnel Mountain Campground
Tunnel Mountain is the closest campground to the town of Banff. Located only 3km east of Banff on Tunnel Mountain Road is the perfect place to rest at night while exploring Banff and the surrounding area.
Head to the famous Lake Louise to visit this turquoise glacier fed lake surrounded by the Victoria Glaciers and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Here you can rent canoes in the spring-fall seasons, grab a coffee from the Fairmont and walk around the perimeter of the lake or if you are feeling more adventurous go for a hike up to the Lake Agnes Tea House or further!
Lake Louise is located an hour away from Banff by car and it is suggested to get a parking spot to head there early in the morning as the lot fills up quite quickly. Sunrise is the best time to visit the lake as it is quiet and the parking lot is empty.
If you would prefer to camp closer to Lake Louise there is the Lake Louise Campground that is only a quick 10 minute drive between the campground and the iconic lake.
While driving to Lake Louise you pass the entrance to Moraine Lake and if you happen to be visiting after Victoria Day long weekend and before Thanksgiving weekend make sure to make the winding drive down to see this glacial fed lake. Moraine Lake is located 14 kilometres outside of the village of Lake Louise and sits in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Moraine Lake offers arguably an ever better view than Lake Louise because of the peaks that surround the lake.
Here at Moraine Lake you can also rent canoes to explore the lakes or hike the Rock Pile to see the iconic view everyone dreams of. Make sure to get to Moraine very early in the morning as the parking lot fills fast and once it does they close the road to additional traffic. Your other option is to take one of the shuttles that will drop you off and pick you up so you do not have to worry about parking.
Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway is the hidden and not well know alternate route to taking the Trans-Canada Highway. The Bow Valley Parkway (Highway -1A) is a scenic 50m route that runs parallel to the the Trans-Canada highway connecting Banff to Lake Louise.
As you drive down the Bow Valley Parkway keep your eyes out on the side of the road for wildlife. Here you have the opportunity to see moose, bears, elk, big horned sheep and many others. The Bow Valley is a much less travelled road so the animal prefer this corridor to the Trans-Canada. Also off the Bow Valley are so must see attractions including Johnston’s Canyon which features an elevated catwalk winding through the canyon taking you to thundering falls. There are some incredible hikes located off the parkway including Rockbound Lake and Castle Lookout. Lastly, some of the most famous photos taken in Banff are at Morant’s Curve. This is one of the most photographed spots in Banff and if you time it right and watch the rail line below you will see a CPR train winding through the mountains making for a perfect picture.